Monday, August 6, 2007

Back to EQ2?

I'm seriously considering resubscribing to Everquest 2. I always felt that I hadn't given that game the chance it deserved, due to the bad timing of it's release just two weeks before WoW. The list of reasons to resubscribe includes:
  • They got Grimwell as Community Manager. :) With him aboard SOE can't possibly be the evil empire some people think. Actually I never believed in evil empire theories, that is just a tag every market leader acquires sooner or later. SOE *did* do some rather unwise decisions over the years. But if I look at Blizzard nowadays, they got the same bug of doing stupid things because they think as the market leader they can do anything.
  • Crushbone. In the time that WoW needed to get out one expansion and announce a second, EQ2 had 3 expansions and announced the 4th. And that isn't counting the adventure packs, which correspond to the big WoW content patches. I'm especially interested in the Echoes of Faydwer expansion, which adds Kelethin and Crushbone to the game. The original Crushbone in EQ1 has become a byword for good content and zones that are really fun. I'd love to see the EQ2 version of it, hoping it's still as good.
  • Legends of Norrath. Finally somebody integrates a trading card game into a MMORPG, I couldn't possibly miss that. Even if this isn't quite the idea I often peddle of having trading cards as the base of MMO combat, but only a game inside a game, it is an interesting step in the right direction. I credit SOE with experimenting with alternative payment methods, other than the flat monthly fee. I don't think that a monthly fee is perfect for everybody. It should exist as option for some games, but other games should be allowed to experiment with other forms of payment. Few game companies do, but SOE has the Station Access, the Station Exchange, and now the Legends of Norrath trading card game. I'm not saying that these are already perfect and the final word in payment methods. But even if Elf is going to flame me again, I don't like the monthly fee system having a monopoly in the MMORPG world.
  • Advances in technology. When EQ2 was released in November 2004 I had two types of technical problems with it. One server side and one client side. The servers had the usual problems that nearly every game has shortly after release, including game bugs. On the client side, the EQ2 client required a lot of horsepower compared to the computers we had in 2004. From all I hear the server problems and bugs of EQ2 have been more or less ironed out. And my 2007 computer is a lot more powerful than what I had 3 years ago, so I think on the client side I shouldn't have problems any more either.
But I have another list, of reasons why resubscribing could be a bad idea:
  • The Vision. When I played it, EQ2 was a lot more hardcore than WoW. That is to say leveling was a lot slower, and a lot more content was reserved for groups only. But the amount of solo content was already modified a lot during the beta, sometimes adding and sometimes removing large parts. I just have to see whether right now EQ2 is playable for a casual player like me, or whether I will be stuck early because the content requires a group and me coming late lack the social contacts required to get one.
  • The uncanny valley. EQ2's graphic style is going into the photorealistic direction. By trying to look like real, but not quite getting there, the characters of EQ2 end up evoking a more negative emotional reaction than more clearly artificial looking characters.
  • Too many other things to do. I'm in three MMORPG betas, got one lifetime subscription to LotRO, plus I have a long list of single-player games I'd like to look at. When am I going to find the time for all that?
  • Lost in the expansion jungle. I'm not quite sure what version of EQ2 to buy. The box I have is for the US, and I'd be probably better of with a European version. Then I don't know if I have to buy the game plus each of the expansions individually, or whether there is some sort of bundle available. And how does it work if I subscribe to the European version, which is distributed by Ubisoft, will things like the Station Access, Station Exchange, or Legends of Norrath be available to me, or are those only for US version users?
I think what I'll do is have a look in a shop sometimes this week and see what is on the shelf there. The alternative would be to try to find a downloadable US version in the SOE shop, but I'm not even sure they sell to Europe. On the EQ2 box is marked as being for the US only.

If you play EQ2, I'd be grateful for any advice. Especially if you know anything about EQ2 in Europe. Getting into a game isn't always easy.

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